Haas confirms Fittipaldi for Bahrain test, race seat undecided

Gene Haas says Pietro Fittipaldi will drive for his team in this week’s Bahrain Formula 1 test, but the squad is still considering other options for a full-time race seat.

Haas confirms Fittipaldi for Bahrain test, race seat undecided
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The American-owned outfit announced last weekend that it was terminating the contract of Nikita Mazepin and its title sponsor Uralkali with immediate effect in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mazepin’s dismissal means the team now faces an urgent task to work out who will line up alongside Mick Schumacher for the start of the 2022 F1 season later this month.

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Fittipaldi is Haas’ official reserve driver, and was famously called up by the team for the final two races of the 2020 season after Romain Grosjean suffered injuries in his fiery crash at that year's Bahrain Grand Prix.

But while team boss Haas has said Fittipaldi will be drafted in for the Bahrain test, he is mindful about the need for a potentially more experienced driver for the bulk of the new campaign.

Speaking to Associated Press, Haas said the only decision that had been made right now was that Fittipaldi would be in for the test.

“We’re in the process of looking at several candidates, we’ll see who is available and what we have to deal with, but we’ll have somebody by Wednesday,” Haas was quoted as saying.

“Pietro will definitely be in it, that’s what he’s for, he’s the test driver.”

One leading candidate for the Haas race seat is Antonio Giovinazzi, who lost his place at Alfa Romeo at the end of last season and has switched to Formula E.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Dragon Penske Autosport

Antonio Giovinazzi, Dragon Penske Autosport

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

The Italian is part of the Ferrari junior academy, and had been due to attend non-clashing F1 races this year to fulfil a reserve driver role for the Maranello team.

Haas could elect to race the Italian for part of the season, or agree terms for a full-time contract if he can get out of his FE commitments.

Speaking about the decision to drop Mazepin and Uralkali, Haas said that the fallout of the team’s links with Russian partners was too much to accept.

“There was a lot of intense criticism about the Ukrainian invasion and it was just getting overwhelming,” he said. “We can’t deal with all that, our other sponsors can’t deal with all that.”

While the loss of title sponsor Uralkali will deliver a financial hit, Haas is adamant that the team has enough resources to weather the impact.

“Haas has always been the major, primary sponsor, I don’t know why people said it became a Russian team. Haas Automation was always on the car,” he said.

“We’re good. We’re fine. We’d like more money, of course, but we’re fine,” he said. “This just gives us a bigger negative number.”

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